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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Can I have your business card please?

Do you used to collect foreign coins or stamps when you were younger? Remember the joy and pride you used to get while going through your stamp albums or while showing it to your mates? Old habits die hard, or they show up later in life in different forms I guess. When we graduate to become bigger boys from our boyhood (or girlhood) and enter into the corporate arena, have you ever got into the 'hobby' of collecting business cards? From my work experience I have realised that we like exchanging business cards in pretty much every business situations in Bangladesh. Its perhaps a normal business ritual, but I must admit that the quality of business cards produced in Bangladesh is really good. I 'collected' some really well laid-out, well-designed business cards made of quality paper of some quality people to keep as trophies in my business card holders. Especially there were those cards with double fold, triple fold flaps filled with tiny logos of various entities the person was involved in (in different glorious and important roles you know) and even the ones with the person's photo too! The more designations, educational qualifications you have the more important you are right?

However, it is pretty much like the culture of giving salaam first. They say whoever gives salaam first is supposed to be more modest. Its not the same I guess while exchanging business cards in Bangladesh. Those who think they are heavyweights in their business sectors prefer to be asked first for their business cards, then they 'very reluctantly but casually' hand over their glorified business card to the 'seeker'. On the other hand, if you hand out your business card first, it signals pro-active interest in building relationship, however risking the status quo to some extent.

I met the Program Manager of a renowned Bangladesh based NGO, here in London, couple of weeks ago. When I say I 'met' him, it does not mean we talked or anything, but while giving introductions, we knew who we were. During one point of the event, I noticed that the gentleman was very actively in the mission of collecting business cards from people around. I also realised that he was however choosy in selecting his targets. He generally avoided those who more or less looked like him (which included me ofcourse) and preferred to go after fairer executives, participants. Good for him, but it was really interesting to witness his mission of collecting business cards to fill up his album perhaps.

From my interactions with non Bangladeshi business personalities, I have realised that their business cards are not of the best quality. Although their business acumen, experience, expertise speak louder than their low quality, poor design, simple business cards, I thought our printers in Nilkhet do a better job in giving a good impression of self through the business cards. I don't even see these people mentioning their educational degrees, institutions etc. in their business cards, even though they might be graduates from top-notch institutions. Gives you a hint what they focus on...not on the ornamental designations or degrees, but on the experience of the person itself.
I guess there is nothing wrong or right regarding this, its how things are with business cards in Bangladesh.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Digital Bangladesh: Are you and your business WEBFFYT ?

As the saying goes 'Charity starts from home', going digital should start with yourself and your business first. Ask yourself if you and your business have a digital presence in the internet or not, try the WEBFFYT scale and figure out how 'web fit' you and your company is and how each of these internet tools could increase your online presence.
Having a website has become pretty much ordinary. It can be safely assumed that if you have a business or are employed in a company, it surely has a website address and a web presence. However, if you are an individual you can always have a personal website with but having a profile in seems to be doing just the same or even more ro create your professional brand in the internet.
Pretty much like web site, having one or more email addresses has become part of life now, no surprise there. There is no need to explain how and why emails are essential for communicating these days.
Very few Bangladeshi companies have taken up the idea of setting up their corporate blogs, be it internal or external. Either they are yet to come to terms with it or they are reluctant to let go the control of the company actions and the consequent reactions to these as it takes place in the interactive environment of a blog. Mostly some newspapers have opened up their web spaces to have a blog to allow conversations with their readers but Bangladeshi businesses are still experimenting with the idea. Other than having a company blog, CEO blogs could also be set up and maintained so that ordinary consumers could interact directly with the head of departments and/or the top people of the company. Similarly individual blogs are also a great medium to express your own thoughts, interests, expertise and create a group of readers surrounding it. Its very strange that our Bangla blogging community is so vibrant, we have live blogs such as, etc. but neither we have bi-lingual (Bangla and English) websites of Bangladeshi companies nor we have even Bangla blogs to encourage interactions from those consumers who are more comfortable to express themselves in Bangla.
If you argue that the largest social networking site in the world is meant only to 'socialise', check out each other's photos and status messages, then think again. There is no harm that your company cannot be 'social' and interact to its customers through a group or a 'fan page' in Many companies have started hosting house networks and social networks have become increasingly flixible so that you can 'commute with your communities' meaning you can merge your different friendlists from different social networking sites into one large mesh of followers and networks. Also keep in mind that this is free marketing in the internet.
Does your company have any image gallery in Why not showcase your products, services, your expertise, interest in your own personalised flickr page? Pictures are worth thousand words and videos are worth million words, so nothing like a flickr profile and even better a channel in Youtube.
Does your business have a dedicated channel in You could publish your TV adverts, other commercials, jingles, brand music videos, corporate event videos, etc. regularly into your Youtube channel. You could always host these in your own website but the kind of flexibility and analytics that is available with Youtube, its better you start using these free services to spread the 'word of mouse' for yourself and your business. Individually, if you are a teacher, a good public speaker, anchor, performer, you can always publish your own performances in your own Youtube channel and interact with your audience, friends, well-wishers etc.
The microblogging platform at has crept up slowly but pretty successfully especially in developed world. Its a matter of time that the craze, like Facebook, hits Bangladesh. Personally I believe Twitter is ideal for breaking news, referring to other interesting websites etc. And Facebook is more on the social and personal front. Twitter is increasingly used by companies to release product information, event information, regular updates about the business etc. to the followers. As an individual, status feature of Facebook and Twitter should be used differently, as its perhaps OK to have complete strangers in your follower list, as long as they are resourceful. However its perhaps not the safest idea to have complete strangers as your 'friend' in Facebook, checking out your private photos and other messages.
The bottomline is, Digital Bangladesh starts from you and your business first, depending on how WEBFFYT you are.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Recession: blessing in disguise for some employers

Not a new post about 'recession'. You must have known quite a lot already what this is, how this is effecting the businesses worldwide and how even the Bangladeshi economy might get (or already is) hit by this global financial meltdown. While the gurus keep crunching theories of finance and attempt post-mortem of the disaster and formulate revival strategies, some employers are surely making the most out of this opportunity in the guise of 'recession'.

It is argued that thanks to internet and the speed of news transfer, recession has hit our minds faster than it has hit the economy. What else can you think of when the first thing you see in the morning newspaper is big headings of how many thousand employees are laid off almost every other day in big companies around the world, how big high street shops are right-sizing their employee base to tackle the crisis etc. Its everywhere, in the internet, print media, electronic media, everyone is talking about it and it has become like an epidemic from which the world economy seems to be suffering from.

Employers are not sitting idle to make merry in this 'recession', they say 'recession' is the best time to do something innovative and turn the business around. So what are they doing? What is their knee-jerk reaction to the financial tsunami? Simple and the easy people. Now the natural excuse is out there. You don't have to cook up any office story, any project failure, behavioral problem, whatever...just say 'due to global financial crisis, we are trying to remain competitive in the market', so the following phrases have become so popular among employers now.

--do double or triple of your job responsibilities
--don't expect any salary raise in foreseeable future, as the 'whole world' is in recession, we are no exception
--don't bother to have complains about management, we are trying our best, if you don't like the job, leave it...people are losing jobs like falling leaves from trees in winter...and thousands are up and ready for your you know what you would do best.
--forget about bonuses, paid holidays, overtimes etc. we cannot afford to spend in useless sectors anymore

The bottomline is that there are many companies still out there who are not affected by the recession disease. Nevertheless, they are pretending that they do have caught the disease or might catch it in near future, so under this pretext they are cutting cost by all means. Just imagine what a great opportunity has arisen for these companies to boost profit figures thanks to reduced salary figures but getting nearly same or more work outputs with fewer employees.

I wonder in a saturated job market like Bangladesh, where getting a job is extremely difficult, how it would be to lose a job under the pretext of 'global recession'. We are quick dancers to the hujoog tunes (downloadable from iTunes?!), so who knows how many bosses of Bangladeshi companies are plotting this evil plan to get rid of some unwanted souls around.